Lenovo Thinks Big with Next Gen ThinkAgile Portfolio

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  October 19, 2016

The process of developing strategic data center system solutions varies pretty widely from vendor to vendor, particularly in the case of factory-integrated and optimized offerings.

If a vendor has a rich software portfolio – IBM and Oracle are strong in this respect – it’s likely to leverage those assets as fully as possible in its integrated offerings. Similarly, vendors possessing a full range of server, storage and networking hardware can be depended upon to maximize the way they leverage those technologies in integrated systems.

These points are hardly a surprise, but they’re not the only effective methodologies for creating strong, compelling integrated solutions. In fact, Lenovo’s new ThinkAgile portfolio of pre-integrated/validated solutions and the associated partnership between the company and Nimble Storage offer a different way forward. Those announcements are worth closer attention.

Lenovo’s innovation history

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Lenovo’s data center group has been through some significant changes since the company completed its acquisition of IBM’s System x organization in 2015. With those issues behind it, to the company is moving further into the use cases and markets that are most valuable to customers and that offer Lenovomthe likeliest opportunities for commercial expansion.

Pre-integrated, pre-validated solutions, like Lenovo’s new ThinkAgile systems, are a natural focus for several reasons. First and foremost, they are designed to support rapid production, deployment and provisioning, issues of concern to business IT customers of every size. But those are also points that Lenovo is well-suited to address both through its advanced global supply chain and the data center professionals it employs.

ThinkAgile offerings can also be designed to address numerous business applications and use cases. Today, those include virtualization, private/hybrid cloud, VDI, databases, big data, telco, and high performance computing (HPC). However, that list is likely to grow considerably as Lenovo expands its ThinkAgile go-to-market strategy and develops solutions for new applications and use cases.

Cost-effective partnering for success

Good enough, but how does the company plan to take advantage of market developments and business solutions it isn’t creating in-house? That’s where the new partnership with Nimble Storage comes in.

Lenovo has tended to leverage creative partnerships in place of making major acquisitions or investing in all-new internal product development. Partly that’s due to the richness of the assets that came to the company in the System x deal. It took a while to absorb that business so another acquisition wasn’t a realistic consideration.

But at the same time, partnerships with vendors, such as SAP (in support of HANA and core business applications), Nutanix (featuring its Acropolis and Prism software) and Juniper Systems (for networking solutions) have allowed Lenovo to gain the value of leading technologies without significant out-of-pocket spending. The new partnership will enable Lenovo to incorporate Nimble’s Predictive All Flash arrays as options in ThinkAgile CX solutions.

Over the longer term, Lenovo also plans to integrate its XClarity infrastructure management software with Nimble’s InfoSight which leverages predictive analytics to automate the support experience. The companies note that they will work together to create “self-healing” system management capabilities extending across all data center infrastructure assets, including storage, compute and networking.

There’s nothing saying that Lenovo couldn’t have developed analogous solutions on its own, but what would be the point when singular partner-developed options are available? Similarly, with many vendors aiming to create their own Flash-based storage offerings and/or end-to-end solution stacks, maintaining its autonomy via a strategic partnership should be a win/win opportunity for Nimble.

Final analysis

Lenovo’s ThinkAgile CX reflects both the long term value of the company’s System x investment and the value it has added to its data center portfolio since the deal with IBM was concluded. The practical elegance and advanced functionalities of the new ThinkAgile CX don’t surprise me given the degree to which those qualities are embedded in the company’s data center solutions.

The partnership with Nimble also resonates with previous Lenovo efforts, as does the company expanding its HX Series hyperconverged appliances within the ThinkAgile portfolio and its plans to develop ThinkAgile appliances based on OpenStack for the China market.

Sometimes the most effective technological innovations are those that arrive with little surprise, and evolve directly out of what came before them. That appears to be the case with Lenovo’s ThinkAgile portfolio, including its initial CX solutions and the offerings arising from its Nimble partnership.

But lack of surprise doesn’t indicate a paucity of quality or innovation. Instead, it reflects dedication to quality and innovation that have long been and will continue to be central to Lenovo’s data center solutions.

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